On the eve of Zimbabwe’s first independence election in 1980, the Rhodesia Herald carried the following revealing article based on an interview the paper had with Rugare Gumbo, now Zanu-PF national spokesperson, in which he bares his hatred for President Mugabe whom he did not want to assume the leadership of Zimbabwe. The article helps explain Cde Gumbo’s current preoccupation of speaking for a faction opposed to President Mugabe.
One Marion Duncan reported. HE is a bitter man. His eyes blaze at the mention of Robert Mugabe. A man he says, “stole two years of my life.” He is Rugare Gumbo, the passionate mouthpiece of the recently released Zanu-PF detainees, who is currently the centre of one of the most intense political struggles the country has yet seen. All major parties contesting the general election (1980 election) are desperate to capture the candidacy of these rebels. Their representatives plague the still bewildered men; large women in party dress hound them. The dissidents are wooed and courted like beautiful women by hungry men. And in the middle, Rugare Gumbo remains calm and placid and with his objectives clearly etched in his mind. “My preoccupation is with unity, to discover a common base for all ethnic and racial groups in this country so that they can work together for the future,” he said.
He was born in Belingwe (renamed Mberengwa after independence) district of Rhodesia in 1940, educated first at a mission school and later at a government secondary school. From his early teens he was involved in nationalist politics, and at the age of 22 was a branch chairman of the Fort Victoria (now Masvingo) Zapu party. He was arrested in 1962 for his part in the attempted organisation of a general strike, but was released two years later. He then went to America, to Boston University where he worked for and obtained a BA. An MA followed from Carlton University in Canada and ME (Masters in Education) from Toronto University. “All this time I retained my interest in politics and in 1973 when I obtained my final degree, I returned to the armed struggle. I was immediately made secretary for information on the DARE (the Zimbabwe Revolutionary Council — a Zanu external wing) under the chairmanship of Herbert Chitepo. “It was at the time of the power struggle and finally the Rev Ndabaningi Sithole made it clear he no longer supported DARE members. After the assassination of Chitepo in August 1975, there was confusion in the party as to who should succeed to the chairmanship. The next man in the chain was the secretary general of the party – Robert Mugabe. We agreed that he was the obvious successor.
Senior members of the party came to see me and other DARE members to ask us what to tell their people. They were Dzinashe Machingura, James Nyikadzinashe, Parker Chipowera and Soul Sadza. We told them the new leader would be Robert Mugabe. “We chose him. At this time he was detained by Frelimo in Mozambique, and it was because of letters written by us that President Samora Machel released Mugabe. “Then came the Geneva Conference in 1976 and I as publicity secretary built up Mugabe’s image for the conference. There was already trouble in the party, but we did not have time to sort it out before the conference. “Everything Mugabe is, he owes it to us — the very people he detained. After Geneva there was a meeting then it all happened.
Mugabe asked me a point blank question. He said, ‘Gumbo, do you want us to dissolve Zanu in order to join the PF (Patriotic Front)?’ I said yes, if that is the only way we can unite the people of Zimbabwe because as far as I am concerned the issue of unity is above party politics. “Mugabe said, ‘I will never leave Zanu. I will do everything that I can to make sure that we do not unite with Zapu.’ Shortly after, we were arrested and detained. When we were detained, Mugabe would come to see us in the pits where we were kept like animals. He would laugh at us, taunt us, we were tortured. He laughed. He enjoyed seeing us suffering. He is ruthless. “He uses people — the Presidents of the Frontline States, people like Joshua Nkomo to build himself up and then he tries to destroy them. He cares nothing for the masses or for the country. All he cares about is Mugabe. “When he joined the party he had only a dirty shirt and trousers. Now he has money — a lot of money. He is wealthy. He built a fortune on the backs and the sweat of people like us. He takes his wife all over Europe and spends thousands.
This is the man who wants to make this country Marxist. He must be stopped.” Rugare Gumbo stops talking. Then he says quietly: “ Yes, I am bitter. I am also afraid — for my people and for my country. Those who vote for Mugabe will do so out of fear, and it is wrong. They must be told not to do it. Mugabe’s intimidation must be stopped. The people must be united. I will do everything to accomplish this.”This article was first published in the Rhodesia Herald, February 21 1980. Herald